25 Women to Read Before You Die

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meghanjanssen has commented on (4) products.

To a God Unknown (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century) by John Steinbeck
To a God Unknown (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century)

meghanjanssen, January 31, 2008

I opened this book for the first time - one of the few Steinbeck novels I had not yet read - shortly after completing my own first attempt at writing a novel. The little book is one of Steinbeck's earliest published works and, interestingly enough, the one that took him the longest to complete. It was in this context that I found the book most provoking: myself an aspiring writer, it was interesting to witness part of the development of one of my favorite novelists. Although not yet as strong and defined as in his later works, the classic Steinbeck tone is still there, and, of course, it is set against the oft-revisited setting of the fertile farmlands of Central California.

What prevents me from giving this book a higher rating is that, in the scope of Steinbeck's literary career, it is not very impressive. The characters do not gel together as flawlessly as those in most of his later works and the classical allusions to parallel stories and characters in the Bible are a bit shaky and somewhat inconsistent. Nevertheless, what prevents me from giving this book a lower rating is that it remains a thoughtful, intriguing, and insightful piece on the nature of man's relationship to the land and to God.

Overall, it is certainly a worthwhile read. In both its length and the complexity of its symbolism, To a God Unknown is certainly more accessible than Steinbeck's more celebrated longer works, such as The Grapes of Wrath or East of Eden, but it is in no way a comprehensive sample of Steinbeck's essential style and literary voice.
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(4 of 6 readers found this comment helpful)

The Irresistible Revolution: Living As an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne
The Irresistible Revolution: Living As an Ordinary Radical

meghanjanssen, January 31, 2008

Shane Claiborne has a lot of interesting stories and valuable insights. It's a funny book; very Donald Miller-esque in tone. There were several parts where I had to cringe as Claiborne tended to border on self-righteousness from time to time, but I don't think that it distracted too much from the beautiful images he successfully presented of what it means to live in real Christian community, the way Jesus did and required ALL his followers to do as well.

The accounts of the time Claiborne spent in Iraq were most poignant and personally challenging for me to read. In the first few years following the United States' spring 2003 occupation in Iraq, I heard several Bush-supporters say to me accusationally, "It's easy for you to march down the street and hold a sign saying you want peace, but there are young men and women overseas right now actually putting their lives on the line for what they believe in." They were right. It was easy for me to march in anti-war rallies and say what I thought, but Claiborne actually put his belief in Jesus' teachings about love into action by joining his brothers and sisters in the Middle East as a Christian peacekeeper. That's what sets the Christian pacifists apart from regular pacifists, I'd say.

Overall, the book leaves the reader with a very strong message that waving our hands in the air at a trendy megachurch every Sunday has nothing to do with Jesus' teachings on discipleship. Hopefully I will be able to take some of the new insights I've gleaned from this book and actually do something with them. I think that's the point.
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(6 of 12 readers found this comment helpful)

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron and Matt Phelan
The Higher Power of Lucky

meghanjanssen, January 31, 2008

Of course, being employed in the children's literature industry, I felt obligated to read "that scrotum book" that just won the Newbery Medal, but I ended up being sweetly charmed by Patron's innocent protagonist. Lucky is an effectively enthralling and multi-dimensional female character with universal appeal in her desire for a sense of belonging and acceptance. I certainly recommend it as a quick read or a great read-aloud if you have kids.
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(11 of 18 readers found this comment helpful)

Vegan with a Vengeance: Over 150 Delicious, Cheap, Animal-Free Recipies That Rock by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
Vegan with a Vengeance: Over 150 Delicious, Cheap, Animal-Free Recipies That Rock

meghanjanssen, January 31, 2008

For a long time now I've felt a sincere inner desire to completely rethink my approach to cooking and finally go animal-free. But I didn't really know where to start. This is the book that gave me direction.

The most distinctively beneficial aspect of this cookbook is that it not only provides a wide array of creative and delicious recipes, but that it also divulges numerous suggestions and morsels of wisdom that give the reader the freedom to take personal creative liberties while preparing the described dishes. After following the more "specific" guidelines provided in the book, I found myself feeling more comfortable experimenting with measurements and substitutions than I've ever been in the past. I was especially inspired by Isa's sections on baking, an area of cookery that--with its mysterious chemical reactions and ubiquitous ingredients--had, for me, always proven to be somewhat baffling.

Besides being a marvelous help and inspiration to one's endeavors in the kitchen, this cookbook proves to be a distinctively enjoyable read. Isa provides humorous insights and reflects on her personal experiences throughout, creating an interestingly intimate aspect to the recipes enclosed therein. In addition, the book is full of helpful asides, indexes, and lists that are beneficial to those recently embarking into the realm of animal-free dining as well as to the well-weathered veteran vegan.

I reiterate the claim that has been made several times already by other reviewers: if you choose to buy only one vegan cookbook, this should be it. But, even if you do not keep to a strictly vegan diet, this cookbook should at least make it to your top five list of cookbooks that are genuinely worth owning.
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(9 of 14 readers found this comment helpful)

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